Archive for the ‘Rhubarb’ Category

Florette’s Rhubarb Tea

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

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This recipe appears in my Pudding Hollow Cookbook. (If you don’t have the book, feel free to order it!)

I had forgotten about the tea until last week when I was pondering what to prepare on my next segment on the show Mass Appeal. It was a hit with friends when I made it a few days ago—and it was a hit yesterday when I made it on the show. (See video below.) It is lovely to look at and refreshing to drink.

In case you skip over the recipe and go straight to the video, be aware that I made rhubarb crumble first! And … you should know that I forgot to mention on the air that one should cover the raw rhubarb with water BEFORE cooking it for the tea; otherwise the rhubarb will burn long before it simmers! (One does get a little carried away on live TV, but one is learning.)

The recipe originally came from my neighbor Florette, who is mentioned in the video. I have written here before about Florette. She was glamorous, eccentric, and occasionally maddening. She taught me a lot about rhubarb and a lot about life, and I’m grateful for those lessons.

The Tea

Ingredients:

for the rhubarb juice:

2 pounds rhubarb stalks chopped (about 6 cups)
3 cups water
1 pinch salt

for the sugar syrup:
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar

for assembly:
1 quart strong black tea

Instructions:

In a stainless steel or enamel saucepan, cook the rhubarb in water, partially covered, over moderately low heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. Stir gently occasionally to keep from boiling. Cool slightly. Drain the rhubarb in a sieve placed over a bowl and discard the pulp, reserving the liquid. Add the salt.

In another saucepan, combine the ingredients for the sugar syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring and brushing the sugar crystals from the sides of the pan until the sugar is dissolved. Cook the syrup for 5 minutes, undisturbed, over moderate heat and let it cool.

To make rhubarb tea, combine 2 parts black tea, 1 part rhubarb juice, and 1 part sugar syrup. (You may change these proportions slightly according to your taste.) Serve in a tall glass over ice. As indicated, 4 cups tea, 2 cups rhubarb juice, and 2 cups sugar syrup make 2 quarts of rhubarb tea.

Store any leftover juice or syrup in the refrigerator. If you need a double amount of sugar syrup, make 2 separate batches.

And now the video:

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If you’d like to see the quick asparagus dish I made yesterday before the rhubarb (one always eats one’s vegetables BEFORE dessert), here’s that video as well:

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“Just Up” Rhubarb Scones

Monday, May 12th, 2014

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I know I probably don’t need another scone recipe on this blog—but I had JUST enough rhubarb to make scones yesterday! So that’s what I did.

My generous neighbor Dennis, who has a giant rhubarb patch, encouraged me to pick some of his rhubarb, which is just beginning to come up.

Unfortunately, it was still a tiny bit too early to pick. So I ended up with only a small amount of rhubarb—about a cup and a half chopped.

I made the scones with some of it and stewed the rest. I love stewed rhubarb. Well, I love rhubarb made just about any way. After all, I did name my cat Rhubarb.

Non-Edible Rhubarb

Non-Edible Rhubarb

When the patch gets bigger, I’ll try the fabulous-sounding recipe my friend Clare just sent me for rhubarb-meringue bars. (I also love meringue.)

Meanwhile, I recommend these scones. They’re buttery, with a nice balance of sweet and tart. Next time, I might even double the rhubarb!

By the way, if you haven’t caught my latest TV appearance, please watch. I talked a lot (what else is new?), but the hosts and I had a very good time making vintage Mother’s Day fare.

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The Scones

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar 2/3 cup chopped rhubarb 2 cups flour 1-1/2 teaspoons baking power 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold sweet butter 1 egg 2/3 cup buttermilk 1/2 teaspoon vanilla cinnamon sugar as needed

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Sprinkle the tablespoon of sugar over the rhubarb. Stir and let the mixture sit while you mix the dry ingredients.

Combine the 1/2 cup sugar, the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the salt. Cut in the butter, but be careful not to overmix. Stir the rhubarb into this mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add this mixture to the dry mixture and blend just to moisten the dry ingredients.

Quickly scoop dough (it will be moist) into rounds on the prepared cookie sheets. Small rounds will give you about 16 small scones, but you may also make 8 larger scones. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top for added flavor and crunch.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes for small scones or a bit longer for large ones. Makes 8 to 16 scones.

Rhubarb Leavesweb

Rhubarb Cobbler

Friday, June 1st, 2012

My little Rhubarb is well named. She wanted to nibble on the rhubarb leaves I brought into the house. I made her settle for toying with a "mouse" made of the stalk.

Susan Shauger, who sings in our church choir, brought a rhubarb cobbler to the church’s recent Meal without Plastic. It was a huge hit.

Of course, I asked for the recipe. Susan explained that she couldn’t find the exact one she used, which was from a vintage cookbook. But … it went something like this!

I have mentioned before on these pages that I adore rhubarb. I have a feeling I’ll be making Susan’s cobbler a lot in rhubarb seasons to come. It’s easy, and the tangy rhubarb flavor sings happily under the biscuit crust. I served it to friends last weekend with homemade vanilla ice cream.

We were VERY happy….

Susan’s Cobbler

Ingredients:

for the rhubarb base:

3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups chopped rhubarb
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, diced

for the cobbler crust:

1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten

for the topping:

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Instructions:

Begin by making the base. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a smallish nonreactive pot. Stir in the rhubarb and lemon juice. Cover this mixture and let it sit for an hour or two until the rhubarb juices up.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish.

Uncover the rhubarb mixture and bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil, stirring gently, for 1 minute. Remove the fruit from the heat and stir in the cinnamon.

Spread the rhubarb mixture in the prepared pan. Dot the top with butter.

To make the crust whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter, but don’t overdo the process. You should still have tiny pieces of butter in the mixture.

Whisk together the milk and egg. Add them to the dry ingredients, and mix just until moist. Drop this mixture onto the rhubarb mixture, and spread it around to cover the fruit. Sprinkle brown sugar over all in little clumps.

Bake until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Serves 8.

 

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To Be Perfectly Frank: 100 Years of Frank Loesser

Monday, June 28th, 2010

 
Tomorrow will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of American composer and lyricist Frank Loesser.
 
Loesser was born on June 29, 1910, in New York City and died in 1969. He wrote or co-wrote some of our most singable songs—“On a Slow Boat to China,” “Heart and Soul,” “Luck Be a Lady Tonight,” “Two Sleepy People,” “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” and about 700 others.
 
I’ve read a fair amount about Loesser, but I feel as though I don’t really know him. In books he comes across as contradictory. He rejected his family’s love of classical music yet longed to write an American opera. He was moody and quick to anger yet nurturing of his peers. He worked far too many hours yet loved parties. 

 
The man I can’t quite find in print comes across in his music as brilliant, playful, and intuitive. He knew how to structure a musical number so that it was easy to sing yet constantly surprising. And he knew how to reveal character through song.
 
His Guys and Dolls, to me the quintessential Broadway musical, illustrates this attention to character. Nathan Detroit’s passive yet sincere love for his longtime fiancée shines through “Sue Me.”
 
Sky Masterson shares his love of the city and his secret longing for connection to others in “My Time of Day.” Shy-no-more heroine Sarah lets her wild side peal in “If I Were a Bell.” And Miss Adelaide’s language and lifelong dilemma are defined in “Adelaide’s Lament.”
 
The lament exemplifies one of Loesser’s other strengths—his ability to translate colloquial conversation into music and lyrics. Miss Adelaide’s voice goes up (as mine certainly would!) whenever she gets particularly agitated contemplating her perpetually ALMOST married state: 

When they get on the train for NIAG’RA
She can hear CHURCH bells CHIME.
The COMPARTMENT is AIR CONDITIONED
And the MOOD sublime.
Then they GET OFF at SARATOGA
For the FOURTEENTH TIME!!!
A person can develop la grippe….
 

I look forward to learning more about Loesser tomorrow evening as I remain glued to the TV (well, actually, I’ll probably save some of the material for later viewing via TiVo) watching Turner Classic Movies’ salute to Loesser.
 
The lineup will include How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1967; star Robert Morse will co-host the TCM evening!), the 2006 documentary Heart & Soul: The Music of Frank Loesser, and several other films.
 
Although there are several gems to choose from I wish one of the films were Hollywood Canteen (1944), which features Bette Davis singing (!) the first Loesser song I ever performed, “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old.”
 
I couldn’t dream of emulating La Bette’s perfect diction. On the other hand, I can of course sing rings around her.
 
I’ll also learn about Loesser as I rehearse for—you guessed it—MY OWN LOESSER CENTENNIAL TRIBUTE WITH ALICE PARKER! 

This will take place on Saturday, August 21, at the Green Emporium in Colrain, Massachusetts. (See fabulous poster below.)

 
Alice and I are still planning the program so if readers have a favorite Loesser song they should suggest it now! 
 
Meanwhile, in tribute to tomorrow’s anniversary here is a special seasonal cocktail. It’s appropriate for two reasons. First, it was invented by my friend Michael Collins, the chef at the Green Emporium.
 
Second, I MUST have something to hold in my hand when Donald Freeman and I perform “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” another song that shows off Loesser’s way of turning conversation into song.
 
“Baby” is one of Loesser’s famous overlapping songs, in which characters (in this case “The Wolf” and “The Mouse”) sing complementary music and lyrics over each other.
 
According to Loesser’s daughter Susan, the composer and his first wife Lynn Garland Loesser performed this song privately many times. She quotes her mother as saying: 

We got invited to all the best parties for years on the basis of “Baby.” It was our ticket to caviar and truffles. Parties were built around our being the closing act.

(Time Life)

 
Eventually, Loesser sold the song to MGM to be sung by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban in the 1948 film Neptune’s Daughter.
 
Lynn Loesser was deeply saddened, but “Baby” won her husband his only Academy Award for best song. (As time went by he managed to scoop up a couple of Tonys and a Pulitzer as well.)
 
On August 21 as Don (doing his best Ricardo Montalban impression) finishes the line, “Beautiful, please don’t hurry,” I’ll pop in with,
 
“Well, maybe just a half a drink more………….” 

Let’s all raise our glasses to an American original!

 
 
Chef Michael Collins informs me that he was inspired to create this cocktail by my late neighbor Florette, who made a mean rhubarb tea.
 
I have tried it three ways—with rum (as described below) at his restaurant, with a little Grand Marnier at home when I couldn’t find rum, and in “virgin” form with a little pink lemonade for my young friend Audrey. I like it all three ways.
 
Ingredients:
 
for the base:
 
6 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups strawberries, cut in half
1/2 lime
1 tablespoon grenadine (optional–for color; I found with really fresh fruit I didn’t necessarily need it)
 
for the cocktail:
 
1 cup cocktail base (see above)
2 ounces white rum
lime juice as needed for rimming
sugar as needed for rimming
 
Instructions:
 
Bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir. When the sugar has dissolved add the fruit.
 
Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until the fruit breaks down. Toward the end of this process add the grenadine if you are using it.
 
Allow the mixture to cool. Remove the half lime (DO NOT FORGET THIS STEP!), and place the liquid in a blender in batches. Blend it; then strain it, first through a strainer (don’t try to push the fuzz down through the holes) and then through cheesecloth.
 
Place it in a jar and keep it refrigerated until it is needed.
 
To make a cocktail (or two): Place the rum in a cocktail shaker, and add ice. Pour in the cup of cocktail base. Shake.
 
Pour a little lime juice around the rim of 1 large or 2 small glass(es), and dip it/them in sugar so that the sugar coats the rim(s). Strain the drink into the glass(es). 

The drink recipe serves 1 to 2. The base makes about 6 cups.

Audrey drank this cocktail with pink lemonade instead of rum.

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For Rhubarb Lovers ONLY!

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

 
I know I don’t usually publish posts two days in a row. I do realize, dear readers, that you have OTHER THINGS TO DO than read about my cooking.
 
I’m running out of time to celebrate everything I need to by July 4, however, so I’m afraid I’m back today with another rhubarb recipe.
 
Actually, I was a little hesitant to try this one. It involves … grilling.
 
I’m not generally a sexist, but there are certain things I’d just rather have men do. Change batteries on high smoke alarms (thank you, David!). Fasten the hose to the faucet outside so the water doesn’t gush out (thank you, Dennis!). GRILL.
 
Last night was hot, however, and no men were in sight. So I pulled out the grill and the charcoal and eventually got a fire going. My mother, Truffle, and I enjoyed a marinated flank steak.
 
And … grilled rhubarb!
 
Ann Brauer, a talented quilt artist in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, suggested I try tossing my favorite stalk on the grill.
 
I was skeptical. I have been known to lose pieces of chicken through the slots of the grill. I had a feeling I would end up with more rhubarb in the fire than on top of it.
 
Ann told me that she had grilled her rhubarb on foil, however, which made the project much more doable.
 
The grilling is a teensy bit tricky anyway. As I state in the recipe below, one wants the rhubarb to become slightly soft but not mushy. The photo at the bottom of this post actually depicts my first batch, which was slightly underdone; you can still see sugar adhering to the stalks. By the time we finished the final batch we were so hungry we ate the darn things without photographing them, however.
 
Warning: I know I’ve said that several of my rhubarb recipes will appeal to people who are not rhubarb fans.
 
This is NOT one of those recipes. If you are a lover of rhubarb, however, you will be enamored of the contrast between the light sugary crust and the deep, tart, rhubarby inside of the grilled stalks.
 
My mother and I were very, very happy. Truffle even ate a couple of pieces. (She’s a dog with excellent taste.)
 
Grilled Rhubarb
 
I apologize for the vague proportions in this recipe! My mother and I ate about 4 pieces of rhubarb each, but people with bigger appetites would probably eat many more. So I leave the decisions to you…….
 
Ingredients:
 
rhubarb to taste–washed, trimmed, and cut into 3-inch pieces
sugar as needed
 
Instructions:
 
Rinse the rhubarb pieces well and barely drain them. Leave a little water adhering to them so that the sugar will stick to them.
 
Pour sugar into a flat bowl, and roll the pieces of rhubarb in it.
 
Grill on foil over a not-too-hot grill, turning from time to time, until the sugar melts and the rhubarb starts to soften but doesn’t completely lose its texture. On my grill this took about 15 minutes, but I am NOT a reliable griller. Keep an eye on your rhubarb and pay no attention to me! 

Remove and serve.


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